Agenda and draft minutes

Corporate Governance and Audit Committee - Friday, 24th June, 2022 2.00 pm

Venue: Civic Hall, Leeds, LS1 1UR

Contact: Debbie Oldham  0113 37 88656

Link: to view the meeting

Items
No. Item

Co-optee

Linda Wild – Independent Member

1.

Appeals Against Refusal of Inspection of Documents

To consider any appeals in accordance with Procedure Rule 15.2 of the Access to Information Procedure Rules (in the event of an Appeal the press and public will be excluded).

 

(*In accordance with Procedure Rule 15.2, written notice of an appeal must be received by the Head of Governance Services at least 24 hours before the meeting)

Minutes:

There were no appeals against refusal of inspection of documents.

 

2.

Exempt Information - Possible Exclusion of the Press and Public

1  To highlight reports or appendices which officers have identified as containing exempt information, and where officers consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information, for the reasons outlined in the report.

 

2  To consider whether or not to accept the officers recommendation in respect of the above information.

 

3  If so, to formally pass the following resolution:-

 

  RESOLVED – That the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following parts of the agenda designated as containing exempt information on the grounds that it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information, as follows:-

 

 

Minutes:

There were no exempt items.

 

3.

Late Items

To identify items which have been admitted to the agenda by the Chair for consideration

 

(The special circumstances shall be specified in the minutes)

Minutes:

There were no late items.

 

4.

Declaration of Interests

To disclose or draw attention to any interests in accordance with Leeds City Council’s ‘Councillor Code of Conduct’.

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made at the meeting.

 

5.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors R Downes and A Smart.

 

6.

Minutes of the previous meeting held on 25th March 2022 pdf icon PDF 239 KB

To receive the minutes of the meeting held on 25th March 2022 for approval as a correct record.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting held on 25th March 2022 be approved as a correct record.

 

7.

Matters arising from the previous minutes

To consider any matters arising from the previous minutes.

Minutes:

Members were advised of the following points:

·  Minute 81 - Annual Assurance Report on Customer Contact

Information had been circulated to the then Corporate Governance and Audit Committee. There had been liaison with the Chair of the Scrutiny Board (Strategy and Resources) which has oversight of the action plan.

 

·  Minute 84 - Internal Audit Plan 2022-23

Information in relation to Covid Grant Fraud had been circulated to the current members of the Committee.

  • Minute 71 – External Audit provided a verbal update to committee.

It was noted that a Briefing Note had been circulated to Members of the Committee setting out the background to the delay in the 2020/21 audit.  Grant Thornton was due to resume their 2020/21 audit week commencing 20th June. It was noted that the national issue in relation to accounting for infrastructure assets is still to be resolved. This relates to the de-recognition of undepreciated components when work is done on existing infrastructure assets. This issue has prevented any further sign-off of the audits of those Councils who have highways assets since it was first raised in January, and as a result up to half of local authority accounts audits for 2020/21 have not yet been signed off. It was noted that the Council’s approach to accounting for highways infrastructure assets has been in line with the vast majority of other local authorities. The Committee were advised that subject to a resolution of the issue on infrastructure assets it was anticipated that Grant Thornton’s final audit report on 2020/21 accounts would be presented at the September meeting.

 

The accounting for infrastructure assets issue is also relevant to the 2021/22 draft statement of accounts which are currently being prepared. It was noted that these accounts will be produced in line with the Code which is in force at the time that the draft accounts are approved by the Chief Financial Officer.  Therefore, some amendments may be required in relation to the infrastructure assets before the final 2021/22 accounts are approved. It was noted that the draft 2021/22 accounts will be presented for information at the July meeting of the Committee with the final accounts 2021/22 due to be presented at the February 2023 meeting.

 

Members were informed that the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) as part of its sampling process have selected Grant Thornton’s audit of the Council’s 2019/20 accounts for a quality inspection. It was noted that this is a review of the audit process rather than a review of the Council’s accounts.

 

8.

Internal Audit Update Report March to May 2022 pdf icon PDF 411 KB

The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services provides a source of assurance that the internal control environment is operating as intended through a summary of the Internal Audit activity for the period from March to May 2022. The report highlights the incidence of any significant control failings or weaknesses.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services provided a source of assurance that the internal control environment was operating as intended through a summary of the Internal Audit activity for the period from March to May 2022.

 

The Committee were provided with the following information:

·  Internal Audit sit independently within the organisation with no responsibility for the delivery of services in each of the Directorates. This allows the team to review across the whole organisation the systems and processes are working effectively. It was noted that the Audit Plan had been approved by the Committee at the March 2022 meeting.

·  Members’ attention was drawn to Appendix A which detailed the work undertaken. Section 4 was highlighted as some of the most interesting information for Members to focus on and was a summary of reports issued in the reporting period. It was noted that 11 reports had been issued. Attention was drawn to areas where improvement was required which included the Primary School Audit. It also highlighted some of the follow up reviews which had taken place to provide assurance on the continual improvements being made.

·  Other Audit work focussed on areas of work that the team were actively involved in at a point in time. These included projects, programmes and project boards. It was the view of the service that it was better to be part of the ongoing process to provide advice and guidance.

·  Section 10 provided the performance of the Internal Audit. One of the key measures was the satisfaction survey which is issued at the end of each audit report. It was noted that great value was place on this area of performance and in this period the responses were particularly high which reflected well on the service. It was acknowledged that where performance is low this is highlighted to Members and lessons learnt for improvements. The service had received a 70% response rate, which showed that there was a requirement for improvement to this. Although more responses had been received since the report had been produced.

·  The quality assurance improvement report which shows the work covered over the course of the year which showed how the service planned to enhance and improve the work that they do. One of the areas was the Recommendation Tracker which has been rolled out across the organisation and will be included in future reports.

 

In response to questions the Committee were provided with the following information:

-  Payments to providers of home care – Members were informed there has been some significant staffing and structure changes in this area which had held up some of the measures that the service needed to take forward. With the staffing, structure and pandemic there had been delays in progressing the formal contract and this relates specifically to the area of mental health care.  In the meantime, documentation was either inconsistent or there was a lack of documentation to support the agreement of the rates. Members were advised that the recommendation tracker would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Counter Fraud Update Report pdf icon PDF 393 KB

The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services includes information on the counter fraud activities undertaken by the Internal Audit service between the period October 2021 and March 2022.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services provided information on the counter fraud activities undertaken by the Internal Audit Service between the period October 2021 and March 2022.

 

The Committee were informed of the following points:

·  The Counter Fraud report was made up of two main sections Reactive and Proactive. Reactive work in relation to concerns raised by staff and members of the public and Proactive work ensuring controls are in place to stop fraud occurring. The proactive work also includes awareness raising of new and emerging fraud risks and to promote counter fraud training.

·  Paragraph 5 showed the channels in which staff and members of the public can raise concerns of wrong doing. The table showed referrals received by directorate and type of concern raised between October 2021 and March 2022. It was noted that 23 referrals had been received in this period.

·  It was noted that 21 referrals were being investigated as at, 1 April 2021. Investigations are undertaken by Internal Audit, Human Resources, staff within directorates or a combination of all of these. Internal Audit undertake a risk assessment and determine the most appropriate route for investigation. 13 referrals were closed in this period.

·  As part of the proactive work the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) is an exercise conducted by the Cabinet Office every two years that matches electronic data within and between public and private sector bodies to prevent and detect fraud and error. Relevant teams within the Council, Internal Audit, Benefits, Housing and Tenancy Fraud have been working through the matches on a risk basis. It was noted that 19 errors had been identified resulting in the recovery of £35k.

·  Members were advised that the service continued to undertake post payment assurance on Covid business grants. A separate paper had been produced on this work and circulated to Members.

·  A review of the controls within the Direct Payment Audit Team had been undertaken and found fraud and prevention controls to be robust and operating well in practice.

·  Included in counter fraud arrangements are to raise awareness to staff of current fraud risks, and the signposting of where to report any concerns. As part of Fraud Awareness Week in November staff were reminded of the counter fraud policies via Insite which included the updated Whistleblowing Policy and the Counter Fraud and Corruption Strategy.

·  A training package had been uploaded to the training system for staff to complete this had been communicated through the Best Council Leadership Team and the Manager communications email. It was noted that 240 people had undertaken the training.

·  Part of the role of the service is to review and refresh counter fraud polices and they are currently reviewing the Anti-Money Laundering Policy, which will be included in the next update to the Committee.

·  It was noted that there had been no applications for directed surveillance, or covert human intelligence source authorisations in the period.

 

Responding to questions from the Members the Committee were provided with the following information:

·  It was noted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Decision Making Statement of Internal Control pdf icon PDF 407 KB

The Report of the Chief Officer is the annual report to the Committee concerning the Council’s decision making arrangements and provides assurances that the Council’s arrangements are up to date, fit for purpose, effectively communicated and routinely complied with.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Officer Financial Services submitted the annual report to the Committee concerning the Council’s decision making arrangements.

 

The committee were informed that the decision-making framework runs throughout the Council’s governance arrangements in accordance with the Council’s Corporate Governance Code and Framework. It is relevant to openness and engagement, to proportionate, sustainable and realistic decision making, and to developing capacity.

 

The report provides a significant source of assurance to the Committee on the Council’s arrangements for internal control when considering the approval of the Annual Governance Statement, which is due in its interim form, to be brought to the next meeting for consideration.

 

The appendix to the report followed the cycle of control with the first stage being define and document. It was noted that there are a number of rules, protocols and formal responsibilities to decision making. Members were advised that there have been no significant changes this year to those arrangements from last year.

 

The second stage is clearly communicated which looks at leadership, advice and guidance, and training for all involved in the decision-making process. The Committee were informed that training had been reintroduced this year, which had ceased due to Covid. Training had been delivered remotely with training given to 330 officers. The training had received positive feedback, however, there was a preference for face to face training going forward.

 

The next stage of the cycle is to effectively embed the decision making framework. It was noted there were no changes to the part in the cycle.

 

The report provided the number of decisions taken over the last year. It was noted there had been fewer decisions taken than the previous years and was due to having had to take more decisions in relation to the effect of Covid.

 

The Committee acknowledged the shift between the number of decisions made by the Director of Resources and Director of Communities, Housing and Environment. This was due to the realignment of Housing from one Directorate to another.

 

The fourth stage of the cycle requires meaningful monitoring.  This is provided through a number of established indicators. Prior to Covid the performance had been good, although this performance had reduced it was now improving.

The Committee were advised under the final review and refine stage that arrangements for sample testing decision reports were in their early stages.  In addition it is proposed that benchmarking will take place in relation to arrangements in respect of receipt of income to ensure that the framework does not hinder access to grants or other income streams.

 

The Committee had no further questions.

 

RESOLVED – To note the positive assurances set out in the Decision Making Statement of Internal Control appended to the report at Appendix A.

 

 

11.

Governance Arrangements for implementation of the Leeds Best City Ambition pdf icon PDF 416 KB

The report of the Chief Officer Strategy and Improvement requests the Committees consideration to set out the proposed governance arrangements for implementation of the Best City Ambition.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The submitted report of the Chief Officer Strategy and Improvement set out the proposed governance arrangements for implementation of the Best City Ambition.

 

The Committee were provided with the following information:

·  The Best City Ambition was adopted by Full Council in February 2022 and replaces the Best Council Plan in Article 4 of the council’s constitution, as part of the budget and policy framework.

·  the Best City Ambition will bring together in one place the key priorities for the city through the three pillars of health and wellbeing, inclusive growth and zero carbon, with the mission to tackle poverty and inequality, while improving quality of life for everyone in Leeds.

·  Appendix 1 of the submitted report provided more detail on how arrangements would align to the cycle of internal control. This will provide a flexible and inclusive approach to governance which works through and builds upon the arrangements which are already in place.

·  The Best City Ambition will continue to underpin the successful work already in place through partnership working and the relationship with citizens. A refreshed and simplified strategic framework to clearly communicate key priorities underneath the three pillars and the actions being pursued to deliver improved outcomes.

·  There will be a clearer view about partnerships and delivery mechanisms through which partners are working.  A stronger connection between overall city ambitions and delivery in neighbourhoods and communities.

·  The Council’s established approach to performance management will continue with a new performance framework and set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). The success of performance will be evidenced by positive progression against the KPI’s, and the Leeds Social Progress Index.

·  It was agreed at Full Council that 2022/23 will be a transitional year allowing time for further development work on supporting performance, strategy and partnerships.

 

In response to a question from the Committee it was noted that the Best City Ambition had been shared with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), as it now replaces the Best Council Plan as the overall framework within which the priorities for the city are articulated. WYCA, working with local authority partners in the first instance, are developing an overall plan for West Yorkshire, which like the Best City Ambition is likely to encompass issues beyond economic development such as health and the environment, again the Ambition frames our input into this work. The Chair requested that a briefing note be circulated to Members setting out arrangements for liaison with WYCA in relation to the Best City Ambition.

 

It was the view of the Committee that Scrutiny Boards should receive trend information to ensure progression or lack of it, to allow for meaningful monitoring against the KPI’s. It was suggested that benchmarking with core cities would be useful.

 

RESOLVED – To consider and note the governance arrangements outline in relation to the Best City Ambition.

 

12.

Annual Report of Corporate Governance and Audit Committee pdf icon PDF 410 KB

The report of the Chief Financial Officer sets out the draft annual report of The Corporate Governance and Audit Committee for the 2021/22 municipal year.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services set out the draft annual report of the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee for 2021/22 municipal year.

 

The report showed how the Committee had discharged its responsibilities in accordance with guidance published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

 

It was noted that a copy of the draft report had been shared with previous members of the Committee and had received favourable comments. Following a request from the committee in March, a brief analysis of the way in which the Committee complies with the CIPFA position statement was appended to the report at Appendix B.

 

In relation to the attached Corporate Governance and Audit Committee draft report it was noted that there had not been acertification of housing benefit grant claims received within the reporting period.

 

Members had no further points make.

 

RESOLVED - To

a)  Note the assurance set out in the report that the Committee complies with CIPFA’s Position Statement: Audit Committee in Local Authorities and Police and:

b)  Approve the draft annual report attached at Appendix A of the submitted report and to authorise the Chair of the Committee to sign on their behalf.

 

 

13.

Corporate Governance and Audit Committee Work Programme 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 441 KB

The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services presents the work programme for the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee, setting out future business for the Committee’s agenda, together with details of when items will be presented.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services presented the work programme for the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee, setting out future business for the Committee’s agenda, together with details of when items will be presented. It also presented a development plan setting out arrangements to develop and extend the Committee’s skills and knowledge in relation to core areas identified by CIPFA.

 

It was noted that the 2022/23 work programme had been agreed at the last Committee meeting in March 2022.

 

In response to a question from the Committee, it was noted that Whistleblowing was part of the remit for this Committee. Whistleblowing formed part of the Counter Fraud and Corruption reports which were presented to this Committee.

 

It was noted that whistleblowing comes in different formats usually anonymously to the Head of Audit.

 

The Chair requested a briefing note on Whistleblowing be circulated to Members of the Committee.

 

RESOLVED – To:

a)  Consider and approve the work programme and meeting dates at Appendix A

b)  Consider and approve the development plan attached at Appendix B.

 

14.

Date and Time of Next Meeting

To note the date of the next meeting is proposed as Friday 29th July 2022 at 2pm.

Minutes:

To note the next meeting of the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee will be on Friday 29th July 2022 at 2pm in Civic Hall.